If you are a CDL holder in North Carolina and receive a DUI/ DWI, the penalties can be harsh. Commercial drivers have a blood alcohol limit of .04, half the limit for other drivers. If you face a commercial driver DUI/ DWI conviction in our state, you could lose your CDL license for a year or longer. There are also other penalties that you could face, such as jail time and fines. This blog post will discuss the consequences of getting a DUI/ DWI as a commercial driver in North Carolina and how to defend against these charges.

Who Are CDL Drivers?

If you have a commercial driver’s license designation, you are a CDL holder who drives one of the vehicle types below:

  • Any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • A combination vehicle with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • A vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
  • Any size vehicle which requires hazardous material placards or is carrying material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR part 73. Federal regulations through the Department of Homeland Security require a background check and fingerprinting for the Hazardous Materials endorsement.

Licensing requirements in NC require an A, B, and C-level commercial driver’s license endorsement for the above types of vehicles.

Even with a Class C commercial driver’s license endorsement, you need “more skill and knowledge to operate because of the type of cargo you carry. Whether hazardous material or human passengers, the safe operation of even the smaller vehicles in Class C requires special knowledge, and the drivers of these vehicles must have a CDL. (1)

Commercial Driver Blood Alcohol Content Limits

According to NC Law § 20-138.2., if a police officer pulls you over, they may arrest you for a CDL DUI/ DWI offense if you’ve committed the following:

  • Failing a field sobriety test and being “appreciably impaired”
  • Over the legal limit of .04% or higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on a breathalyzer test for commercial drivers when driving commercially. (Regular drivers have a limit of .08%, but driving a commercial vehicle limits your BAC level)
  • Chemical test showing substance impairment from a Schedule I controlled substance

NC DWI laws make impaired driving of any kind illegal. Not only is drunk driving illegal, but you can get a DWI under North Carolina law when taking a lawfully prescribed drug if you’re driving is noticeably impaired. 

The fact that you face DWI/ DUI criminal charges, but were “legally entitled” to use alcohol or a specific drug is not a defense!

Penalties to Commercial Drivers Convicted of DUI/ DWI

Facing DWI/ DUI charges can bring an automatic administrative license revocation. And a DWI/ DUI conviction involving impaired driving can bring you many penalties.

According to NC Law G.S. 20-16(c), the DWI DUI affect on your life is immense. With commercial DUI charges, you can face an assessment double the amount of any fine or penalty authorized by statute.

Other serious consequences include:

  • Court costs
  • Substance abuse assessment
  • Increased car insurance
  • Loss of commercial driver endorsement license
  • Loss of license for at least one year
  • Restricted license or limited driving privileges
  • Revocation or suspension of driver’s license
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Professional licenses revoked
  • Higher car insurance premiums or the loss of the ability to get car insurance
  • Jail time
  • A “minimum jail sentence” with prior convictions
  • Other motor vehicle offense charges, including dangerous driving
  • Monetary penalties
  • License suspension of one year for your first offense or four years for a second offense
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
  • Wearing a Continuous Alcohol Monitoring System on your person

Having your license suspended as a CDL driver can mean the end of your career. Professional truck drivers who wish to keep their profession need a skilled DUI/ DWI attorney when facing the loss of their license to drive motor vehicles.

Other Important Considerations for CDL Holders

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, all commercial vehicles, 10,001 lbs. or more are under the following restrictions:

  • A driver may not have any alcoholic beverage (including so-called “non-alcoholic” beer) anywhere in the vehicle or combination. There are exceptions if the beverages are part of the legitimate manifested cargo, and for bus and limousine passengers.
  • A driver may not operate the vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.

A driver who violates these regulations will be shut down for 24 hours. This is when you only face charges but have not yet faced a conviction.

The commercial motor vehicle may also face impounding. 

CDL drivers in NC driving on interstates, such as big rig drivers, also may face Federal charges in addition to NC Law charges.

Will I Ever Legally Drive Commercial Again?

The fact is that a past driving record with DWI can bring your CDL suspension. However, receiving your CDL again after a one-year suspension is sometimes possible despite being convicted of a DUI/ DWI. However, you can lose your CDL permanently if you face a second DUI conviction.

Prior DUIs can also prevent a trucking company from hiring you in the future. However, after 5-7 years, some companies will consider you for a job again, even with your criminal record.

Instead of accepting that DUI/ DWI charges are the end of your career, contact a knowledgeable DUI/ DWI attorney to help you fight the charges. Especially if you’re facing a first-time conviction, you may find that you can receive reduced or dismissed charges for completing DWI/ DUI school.

Our Experienced DWI Attorneys Can Help

At Cape Fear Lawl, we offer a free case evaluation if you’re facing DWI/ DUI convictions. We know your driving record means everything to you and want to help defend your rights against DWI/ DUI penalties. 

We assess your case and determine whether you faced rights violations in your arrest. Working with the DA’s office often helps us to negotiate reduced or dismissed sentences. We also successfully represent many clients in court. 

Helping those facing DUI/ DWI charges in North Carolina is our focus. We understand the potential consequences of DWI/ DUI charges for commercial drivers and want to help you get the best possible outcome for your charges.

Get in touch today for your free consultation and find out your next steps!